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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Aug 4, 2023



‘A MAN CALLED OTTO’ is the kind of dramedy that most uppity critics will dismiss as schmaltzy and mawkish. It stars Tom Hanks in the title role, based on a Swedish film and a best selling novel. 

It’s directed by Mark Foster (“Monster’s Ball” where Halle Berry won her Oscar) and written by David Gee, who also both worked with Tom in “Finding Neverland” that got several Oscar nominations in 2004.

“Otto” was released theatrically late last year and earned $112 million worldwide on a budget of $50 million. It’s now showing on Netflix. 

Tom plays Otto Anderson, a grumpy old widower who is forced to retire from his work in a steel plant and now lives alone in his home in a row of apartments in Pittsburgh.

Lonely and miserable, he has lost the will to live and is now planning to hang himself, so he can join his late wife, Sonya, in the after life.

Just as he is about to kill himself, he is interrupted by new neighbors, a pregnant Hispanic woman, Marisol (Marianna Trevino), with her husband Tommy (Manuel Garcia Rulfo) and two daughters. 

Otto helps them park their car properly.

In a series of flashbacks, we see Otto as a young man (played by Taylor Hanks, real life son of Tom), who wants to join the army but is turned down due to a heart situation.

In the train station, he sees Sonya dropping a book and he runs after her inside the train to return it and that’s their meet cute.

Although he is easily annoyed thinks everyone is an idiot, Otto really has a soft heart and is always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, like his long time neighbor Anita (Juanita Jennings) and her invalid husband Reuben (Peter Lawson Jones) who used to be his good friend. 

Otto tries to kill himself again by locking himself up in his car with the motor running, but again, he is interrupted by Marisol whose husband had an accident and has to be taken to the hospital. 

His next attempt at suicide is at the train station where he plans to jump into the path of oncoming trains. But an old man accidentally falls down into the tracks and he jumps in to save him, making him a hero in the eyes of onlookers.

Otto also helps a young man, Malcolm (Mack Bayda), who delivers newspapers in their neighborhood, but he turns out to be a transgender disowned be his own dad. Malcolm says Otto’s wife used to be his teacher who’s supportive to him.

Otto does a lot of other good things, like teaching Marisol how to drive, babysitting for her two kids, saving a stray cat from dying from the freezing winter weather and fighting a real estate company that wants to drive Anita and Reuben out of their home.

The role of this endearing everyman is tailored to fit Tom’s personality as America’s dad. 

If you are cynical, inclined to depression and being mean spirited, we’re sure you won’t like the movie that is meant to offer some feel good optimism at the time we’re still reeling from the pandemic. 

But if you’re the type who’s willing to be taken for a good ride, then you’d probably enjoy the movie and find it tugging at your heartstrings even if it’s a bit contrived. 

It reminds us of a movie we saw as a teenager on TV, “Apartment for Peggy”, about an old professor contemplating to commit suicide but is saved by a newly wed couple with very positive attitudes in life.

Tom Hanks is the main reason for watching this film. We remember seeing him first in “Bosom Buddies”, a 1980 sitcom, then he hit it big in the movies with the mermaid romcom, “Splash”. 

Since then, he has won two Oscars (“Philadelphia”, “Forest Gump”), seven Emmys and has been honored with various other awards like the American Film Institue Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Award, Cecil B. De Mille Award, the French Legion of Honor, etc.

It’s been a long career and a most successful journey. He is now of the same age as our own Boyet de Leon, 67.

Now, he gets under Otto’s skin so brilliantly and it is so delightful watching him do his job as an actor playing a grouchy senior citizen in distress. 

He just might be accused of nepotism for making his son play him as a younger man, but in all fairness, his son doesn’t embarrass his dad or himself.

Giving him invaluable support is Mexican actress Marisol Trevino who acts like a force of nature and steals some scenes as his lively, spirited neighbor who gives him home cooked dishes and cookies. 

We laughed when she asks him: “Have you always been this unfriendly?” 

The film is truly a humanizing experience and teaches us that getting along well with your neighbors, who become your extended family, can be life saving. 

The film may be too maudlin and saccharine for others, but it wins us with its feel-good, heartwarming comic touches, the charming performances of the entire cast (including the cat!) and it’s clear-eyed optimism and belief in the human race.